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LA County Looks Into Expanding Trainee Program Amid Mental Health Worker Shortage

A woman with long dark hair, wearing a red jacket and blue surgical face mask, pulls on a pair of blue latex gloves. She is sitting inside a van, next to a logo which reads "Los Angeles County department of mental health. Hope. Recovery. Wellbeing."
Psychiatric technician Connie Villareal inside an L.A. County therapeutic transport van.
(Courtesy L.A. Dept. of Mental Health)
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Topline:

According to an October report, 28 percent of the positions at the L.A. County Department of Mental Health are vacant. The county is hoping that beefing up its training programs for students will bring more mental health professionals into the fray.

Why It Matters: Dr. Debbie Innes-Gomberg, deputy director of DMH’s Training Division, said some of the impacts of having an insufficient workforce are that it takes longer for patients to get care and staff gets burned out, while demand for mental health care increases.

What’s Next: Last month, the L.A. County Board of Supervisors ordered the department to come up with a plan to expand trainee programs for students.

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Currently the department works with 16 local universities to offer about 100 internships a year, and the hope is to increase that number considerably.

The county is also restarting an $18,000 stipend program that was paused during the pandemic. That program hopes to grant nearly 200 recent grads those stipends in return for a promise to work in public mental health for a year.

Go Deeper: Why It’s So Hard To Find A Therapist In LA

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One of my goals on the mental health beat is to make the seemingly intractable mental health care system more navigable.